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by Dr. John Thomas
There are not three gospels; but one and the same gospel, as before stated; originally all promise; then promise, history, and doctrine preached to Jews only; and afterwards offered to the Gentiles upon the same terms as to the Jews.
But though I have set forth these things with some minuteness, the reader will still feel that the treatise is incomplete so long as I have not set forth "the things concerning the kingdom of God," to which such frequent reference has been made, as the grand theme of "the glorious gospel of the blessed God"; and without the knowledge of which a man's faith is destitute of the "one hope of the calling" which is the anchor of the soul both sure and steadfast within the veil in Christ Jesus; who is there "waiting to receive the kingdom and return".
This, then, will be the subject of future illustration, in the hope that we shall make it so plain that "he may run who reads".
I shall now proceed to say a few words upon APOSTOLIC SUCCESSION.
"Divines" contend that the mantle of the apostles fell upon the elders, or bishops, of the churches who survived them; that these survivors were "the successors of the apostles," and that when these died away, the apostolic mantle fell upon those who succeeded to their offices in the churches, being invested by the imposition of hands; and that thus from generation to generation until the present day, the succession has been perpetuated by the institution of ordination, or "holy orders"; so that the living orders of ecclesiastics, composed of pope, cardinals, bishops, priests, and ministers, are "successors of the apostles," endued with like authority and power in the churches, and entitled to the same obedience and consideration.
They found their claim to these high pretensions upon certain passages of scripture, written concerning the apostles and their co-labourers, which they apply to themselves, and argue that the grace of office has been transmitted from one to another by the imposition of "holy hands"!
Thus, when an aspirant to apostolic succession presents himself before a bishop for ordination, the latter says to this effect: "Receive thou the Holy Ghost by the imposition of my hands for the office, or work, of a priest, in the house of God; whosesoever sins you remit are remitted, and whosesoever sins you retain are retained".
This, says the thirty-sixth article of the national religion, "hath nothing that of itself is superstitious or ungodly".
By virtue of this consecration and ordering, absolution, or remission of sins, is pronounced by the priest standing up alone in the midst of the people, who kneel to receive it; and in the form it is declared that "Almighty God hath given power and commandment to His ministers to declare and pronounce to His people, being penitent, the absolution and remission of their sins".
Thus, the national parsonocracy claim the apostolic attribute of remitting and retaining sins, of binding and loosing, even as the Papists; with this modification, however that they remit sins in the gross, while the latter do it both wholesale and retail.
Thus do the national and Popish clergy, speak blasphemy continually.
But the state-clergies are not alone in their assumption of apostolicity; the Dissenters are condemnable on the same account.
They claim to be ambassadors of Jesus Christ; and they permit none to "administer ordinances" who are not ordained by the imposition of hands.
The ordained do not undertake to forgive sins after the manner of the apostles; but they apply to themselves scriptures which relate only to the apostles, by which they constitute themselves their "successors".
But, the truth is, that neither State nor Nonconformist clergies are entitled to be regarded as "successors of the apostles".
The nature of the office may be comprehended by the qualifications of the office-holder, which were indispensable.
They may be thus stated: An apostle of Christ to the circumcision must be one who has companied with the Lord Jesus from his baptism until his ascension; so as to be a witness to his resurrection; An apostle of Christ to the Gentiles must have seen Jesus, and have conversed with him, as well as the former: An apostle must be chosen, ordained, and sent of the Lord; and authorized by him to forgive and retain sins.
An apostle must be able to work signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds, as signs of his apostleship.
To be an apostle a man must have believed the pure gospel of the Kingdom of God, have been immersed, and walk according to the truth of it.
With these qualifications, the thirteen apostles ( apostoloi , men sent with commands) directed the affairs of the churches, which they had formed and established in the world.
Their administration was in fact the administration of the Spirit through them; so that in their word was power to the healing of disease, the infliction of it, and the destruction of fife.
They conferred spiritual gifts upon believers by the imposition of their hands; and gave commandments to the faithful as the vicegerents of the Lord.
Now, reason and common sense teach, that if men are real successors to apostolicity, they will be like Peter and Paul in all their qualifications and attributes; but reason also teaches, that after the ascension of Jesus, no man can be qualified for the apostleship unless the Lord appear to him, as in the case of Paul.